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Merrill Edge is an online investment platform offered by Merrill Lynch, which is now owned by Bank of America. With such big names behind it one could be forgiven for expecting an excellent quality trading platform with great customer service, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case. The web is awash with complaints over dodgy trade execution, bugs in the tools and poor customer service when trying to report any of these problems. Our own experience wasn't quite so bad, but we were far from impressed with Merrill Edge.
First and foremost Merrill Edge gives a focus to long term investment and financial planning, rather than offering a trading platform for executing day trades. The idea seems to be to offer an online investment portfolio that you create with the help of a professional investor and then manage yourself. Much of the advice on offer is based around saving for college or retirement, but if you know what you are doing you can put together your own portfolio from the range of investment products Merrill Edge offers.
When it comes to research and planning tools Merrill Edge really does provide an excellent selection of tools that are very useful in making decisions on how to invest. A range of calculators help you to realise your goals and the risk profile that would be best suited to your needs and world class research from a variety of sources can help you decide what to invest in. However, it's when it comes to actually executing trades that Merrill Edge loses its edge, so to speak. The trading tools are purely web based and in itself there is nothing wrong with that, but these don't seem to be particularly well designed or implemented and we noted several bugs in our tests. They also don't provide all the functionality a professional investor would likely require, although there is probably enough for someone taking a more casual approach.
Merrill Edge's commissions and fees are slightly on the high side unless you have a very large account balance, in which case you get preferential rates. It could be argued that the high costs are worthy of the research on offer, but we certainly wouldn't pay them for the trading tools. Merrill Edge currently offer free trades on certain investments, but as this is a relatively new company, it's quite feasible that this benefit might be pulled once a decent customer base has been built up.
Merrill Edge should really be a lot better than it is given that it has some of the biggest names in investments behind it. Granted, it is a relatively new offering, but there has been enough time to iron out the rough edges by now. The stories of poor customer service we have heard would put us off recommending this trading platform unless you are confident it's the right one for you. Check out our top ten for some far better examples of how things should be done.
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